The Picassos of modern music


The astonishing surge of creativity around dub faded in the early 1980s when digital production techniques replaced old analog mixers and the era of dancehall arrived. “From there the dub got stale in Jamaican terms, it wasn’t that important,” Barrow says. “There were still versions on the other side (of the singles), still handled with techniques like reverb and delay, but it wasn’t like the old four-track dubs from the Golden Age, which was really from ’72 until the early ’80s.

But dub still lives on – both as a musical influence, and also as a musical experience that people have a deeply personal connection with. Many followers describe its power in almost spiritual terms. “Dub, for me, highlights and defines the key moments of my youth in a complex time of the 1980s,” says Sister Stellah of the Rastafari Movement UK. “The A side of a record would awaken me to social commentary… but it’s the B side that gave me a deeper, almost electric surge of inner strength. This is the bass line, it pushes back all negativity… and leaves room for magnificent ideas, bearers of hope for my people.

“I would describe music as a feeling,” confirms Iqbal. “It’s the music that enters you, and you have to give yourself to it. It is enriching for the soul. It’s something I think about a lot when trying to figure out what I’m doing with my own music. The power of music is beyond our comprehension, but when you experience a dub sound system you get a little closer to how music can affect us spiritually. I have the impression that all musicians are striving to achieve this goal. It is a constant quest.

Steve Barrow concludes by summarizing how influential the tidal wave of music and innovation that emerged from Jamaica in a relatively short period of time has been, and how we still deal with it today. “There had been remixes before and people experimenting with multitrack recording, but Jamaicans really took it to a whole new level,” he says. Without these producers and their artistic and technical backgrounds, almost all electronic music as we know it would sound different now. “Jamaicans got on the road and put up the road signs,” says Barrow. “They cut the road and they opened it.”

Five ultimate dub records

King Tubby – The Roots of Dub (1975): A classic set of Tubby dubbing of original vocal tracks by Horace Andy and Johnny Clarke

Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976): a revolutionary album, rich in melodica. The title song may be the dub’s signature.

Keith Hudson – Pick A Dub (1974): an atmospheric and melancholy masterpiece, which crossed the post-punk scene in the UK after a radio play by John Peel

Lee Scratch Perry – Blackboard Jungle Dub (1973): a contender to be the first dub album released, with Perry mixing his house band The Upsetters

Scientist – Introducing Scientist (1980): the first album by Hopeton Brown, aka Scientist, former assistant to King Tubby who ushered in the new generation of producers in 1980 with this supremely technical album.

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